Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and need for social distancing, the Tustin Police Department has found a way to stay connected with the community.
That connectivity is coming in the form of virtual meetings.
“With everyone needing to be 6 feet apart, we are trying to stay in our own workspace and not be in the same areas,” Tustin Police Sgt. Sarah Fetterling said. “We are currently holding briefings for patrol virtually. Our Emergency Operation Center meetings are virtual. It seems natural to continue this with everything else we do.”
The first meeting brought together more than a hundred Tustin apartment managers along with several members of Tustin PD for a virtual Tustin Effective Apartment Managers meeting in July.
“These are apartment managers throughout the City of Tustin who communicate with each other regarding crime, vendors to use, trends, etc.,” Fetterling said. “This was created by Karin Marquez, who partners with us every other month and holds the meetings in the Tustin Community Center. They haven’t been able to meet since COVID-19, so we approached her to co-host a virtual meeting to touch base with everyone.”
The agenda included an update on city events, housing, development and economic progress; an update on crime statistics and notable trends in the city; and a discussion of important issues related to the housing communities.
Jerry Craig from Economic Development talked about changes in housing regulations due to COVID-19, and a question-and-answer portion was held with the Tustin Police Department area commanders.
Lt. Manny Arzate and Area Commanders Lt. Duane Havourd and Lt. Stephanie Nichols reported on crime in their respective areas. Fetterling and Police Services Officers Jen Dlugitch and Adriana Tokar were also on hand.
“Our apartment managers are leaders in the community and we know they will bring the information back to their tenants,” Fetterling said.
The agency held a Virtual Community Dialogue in early August that was much like a Town Hall meeting, according to Fetterling.
“A lot has changed in the world since the last time we were able to host a meeting with community members, so we wanted to provide an opportunity for our community members to ask questions,” she said. “Questions could range from homelessness to our Use of Force Policy, our changes in procedures in response to COVID-19, etc. By allowing the community to submit their questions ahead of time they are the ones creating the agenda.”
“The goal for both meetings is to let the community know we are still here for them,” Fetterling said. “There have been a lot of changes in the world over the last couple of months. We are all forced to wear masks and it doesn’t seem very personal. But our level of service has not changed. We are still out there keeping Tustin safe.”
The agency is also making sure to include younger members of the community in its virtual outreach. The department recently hosted a virtual tour of the agency and a patrol vehicle for a local Boy Scout Troop.
Tokar and Dlugitch coordinated the meeting for 10 to 20 Boy Scouts ranging in ages from 13 to 17, along with their parents. The Scouts earned six merit badges for the station tour, including American Heritage, Law, Citizenship in the Community, Nation and World, and Crime Prevention.
The Scouts learned about situational awareness, crime prevention and bullying.
Fetterling said some prep work was involved in the agency’s expansion into the virtual world.
“We had to learn about Zoom meetings,” she said. “Luckily, we have been using this platform for all of our other meetings, so we are getting really comfortable with it. We also had to learn how to use the platform Granicus. This is how community members submit their questions.”
Fetterling said the agency adapted quickly to the requirements of the pandemic and social distancing.
“We first analyzed how to keep our employees safe while still providing the same level of customer service to the community we serve,” she said. “We started taking phone reports for vehicle burglaries and traffic collisions. Since rolling out these changes, we have received positive feedback from the community.”
And the creative connectivity by the agency has continued.
“While there are a large number of special events that have been canceled due to the pandemic, I think Tustin PD is doing a great job in attempting to engage with the community,” she said.
Fetterling added that as the country has become more familiar with virtual meeting platforms, she can see potential for their continued use even after the pandemic ends.
“This may be more convenient for our community who is trying to get home from work, feed their family, help the kids with homework, etc.,” she said.
She hopes to see many community members participating in these virtual events.
“We are here to serve them and we don’t take that lightly,” she said. “Over the past couple of months, we have received food, energy drinks, homemade masks and cards from the community of Tustin. We have been touched by the show of support and feel so lucky to serve the residents of Tustin.”